Equine Rescue

Tainted Feed Condemns Fla. Horses to Death

Story by JENNIFER KAY
Source: Multiple

“Please keep these horses and their humans in your prayers this holiday season; they all could use the largest dose of love that you can possibly dole out.” ~ R.T.


“It is hopeless and there are no words.”

Ava Exelbirt brushes one of the remaining horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla. ~ (Photo: J Pat Carter)

Ava Exelbirt brushes one of the remaining horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie, Fla. ~ (Photo: J Pat Carter)

Eighteen poisoned horses are being treated to spa days in their Florida stables, with their young riders brushing their manes and tails, painting their hooves, feeding them hay and petting their noses.

There’s nothing else anyone can do for the doomed horses at Masterpiece Equestrian Center in Davie.

A batch of feed tainted by additives safe for other livestock but toxic to horses arrived at the center in September, and all 22 horses there ate the feed for a month before anyone realized something was wrong.

Three horses died in October, and a fourth was euthanized Monday. The rest will die, some possibly as soon as this week.

“There’s very little to do other than keep them hydrated, giving them lots of hay, giving them lots of comfort, brushing them, giving them attention and love and baths — it makes the horses happy to be attended to,” said Debra Buis of Weston, whose two horses Don Tavia and Ultimatum are among the afflicted. Buis’ two teenage daughters, one of whom wears her horse’s nickname “Tavi” on a necklace, have aspirations to be elite equestrians.

“It’s really quite hopeless, to be honest with you,” Buis said Tuesday. “It is hopeless and there are no words.”

The first horse died Oct. 15, dragging its back feet and collapsing as it tried to stand. Everyone thought it was colic, a relatively common disorder of a horse’s digestive system, Buis said.

Then a second horse suffered similar symptoms and died two days later, and a third horse quickly followed. Necropsies and testing of the horses’ feed confirmed monensin poisoning.

Monensin is an antibiotic added to feed for cattle and some poultry to help with growth, but it’s toxic to horses’ muscles, particularly their hearts, said Serena Craft of the University of Florida Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

Since October, the horses’ owners have sought to keep their animals comfortable and prepare for the inevitable. All riding lessons have been replaced by vigils kept over weakening horses.

Some parents of young riders tried to shield their children from the tragedy slowly unfolding, telling them that the horses were getting ready to retire, Buis said. But the death Monday of Foxy, a pony used for riding lessons for many children, was a reminder that more losses are coming.

The Lakeland-based company that sold the feed to Masterpiece has recalled the product, stopped producing equine feeds and acknowledged that feed delivered to the center contained monensin and lasalocid, another anti-bacterial additive toxic to horses.

Lakeland Animal Nutrition believes the contamination was limited to the feed at Masterpiece, and no other horses elsewhere have been reported ill, general manager Jonathan Lang said in an email.

“Care of the animal and our customers’ trust are paramount to us, and we are committed to working with the Masterpiece Equestrian family to bring restoration in the midst of their tragic losses,” Lang wrote.

Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is investigating.

45 replies »

  1. Avoir un cheval comme n’importe quel animal demande des soins de l’attention et de la passion. Je suis heureuse de pouvoir écrire que mes chevaux agés de 27 et 28 ans vont bien. Je suis triste quand au sort de ces pauvres chevaux et les enfants qui s’en occupaient…….

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  2. Are we entirely sure this was not done , intentionally??????????? by this Company !!! is it being investigated………………… This is as severe as if they poisoned people !!~!!!!!! i pray there will be devine intervention for this innocent horses !!!!!!!!!!

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  3. A truly hellish situation. My condolences to all who’ve lost their horses. These dear creatures are vulnerable in so many ways. Add to that human error, and it’s a wonder that a catastrophe like this isn’t more common.

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  4. That choked me up. I would tell my child and let the decision be theirs. Why do we need additives fed to our feed animals? How could something so dangerous be safe for us? And how could such a careless mistake have happened? There is no reason for that company to be producing feed fatal to anmals it did business with.

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  5. Sad for this to happen to our loved horses . But that same antibiotic “Monensin” they eat is going in the animals that we eat . The difference is with us it is killing us at a slower rate . Here is the proof what the antibiotic’s are doing to us .

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    • GG, this sort of thing is exactly what I first thought happened in Kansas… but still no official causes of death or necropsy reports. The pattern is sadly similar. The only bright spot here is these horses know they are loved where the wild horses were just more or less shipped, warehoused and euthanized. To date I have not seen any official list of which horses died and which were euthanized, though these were surely all freeze branded horses.

      What a sad Christmas story!

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    • Boy, that felt like a fist to the solarplexus! BLM has yet to make public the horses that died, their ages and HMAs. It would be a miracle to. See what killed them, besides a bullet. But that is exactly what is expected. BLM is waiting for everyone to forgett them. And I also want the feedlot manager charged with killing wild horses. It was sheer negligence, more than possible willful.

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      • Jan, I agree with you mostly, but suspect it was probably simple oversight/incompetence (sadly, probably the ultimate case in these FLA deaths, too,from poor practices at the mill). If cattle feed residue was left in the uncleaned bunks at the feedlot where our wild horses were deposited the rest of the symptoms fit the resulting deaths. If as little as the weight of a paper clip would kill a horse it seems pretty likely this explains how so many died, and so slowly, in Kansas. Last “update” I heard was it was around 100, over several months time. I will not forget them, however faceless those innocent old mares may be to those in charge of their lives and deaths.

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      • This makes me hesitate to feed any kind of milled feed to our horses. It is so so sad. And scary. I also question why they are not euthanizing suffering horses that the know will die. Is this just the beginning or are we in for more?

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  6. Cant imagine the sadness knowing your horse (or pony) is going to die – and nothing you can do to stop it. I certainly give a ton of credit to all of these horse’s owners in making every day the best they can.

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  7. Is there no antidote????? would a blood transfusion help, isnt there something that can be done??????? there must be some way to help them >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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  8. Isnt there a body and organ flush ????? Something must be tried…………………….Isnt there a vet out there that has an idea of something ???????? what about an posion eating enzyme out there??????? Comeon experts!!!!!!

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  9. Lord, the weight of a paper clip will kill a grown horse….

    “Rumensin is a feed additive (ionophore) for cattle. Horses should not consume any feed that contains Rumensin as it is often lethal. Rumensin affects the heart muscle of the horse leading to changes that cause heart failure. Horses that do survive after ingesting feed containing Rumensin are impaired for life due to the damage to the heart. You should always read feed labels before turning horses in with cattle.”

    http://www.extension.org/pages/33912/is-rumensin-sodium-monensin-harmful-to-my-horse#.VJTFV1LAA

    ——-
    “Monensin, brand name Rumensin, is used in some cattle feeds to prevent coccidiosis (a disease caused by a microscopic parasite), improve feed efficiency, increase weight gain and aid in milk production. It can also be in supplement blocks. Monensin is fatal to horses, other equids (donkeys, mules, etc.), guinea fowl and dogs.

    As little as two (2) milligrams of monensin per kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of body weight is toxic to horses. A 1,100 pound horse (500 kg.) would die if it ate 0.035 ounces (1,000 mgs.) of monensin. A small paper clip weighs about 1,000 milligrams (1 gram). It doesn’t take much to kill a horse.

    Symptoms of monensin poisoning in the horse are: colic, muscle stiffness, sweating, staggering, labored breathing and a severely accelerated heart rate. These are symptoms of many other equine diseases so identifying the poisoning can be difficult. Blood and urine tests can pinpoint the problem.

    Monensin damages the equine heart and muscles. If a toxic level was eaten the horse can die a horrible death within several hours. Some may linger for days. Others may seem to recover only to die several weeks or months later of congestive heart failure.

    Small amounts of monensin may not kill the horse, but can cause irreparable heart damage – leading to loss of a long productive life.

    There is no antidote for monensin poisoning. Supportive care by the veterinarian is all that can be offered.”

    http://www.thewayofhorses.com/03_13_cow_feed.html

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    • Dear Icy, Thank You for your report, I am devastated for the horses and their owners, i have been weeping for them throughout this inexcusable error ……….. their can be no excuse for this negligance and ,pain and suffering caused to the Horses and their owners is horrific …………… i would give anything to reverse this for them……… I feel their Pain and Suffering ………. This fed Company should be shut down forever…………………..

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  10. If there is truly nothing, absolutely nothing, that vets can do to save these horses, I think the very least the feed supply company should do is to pay 100% of all costs incurred to each horse owner & the stable. Even if a miracle cure could be found in time, they should still be held responsible & pay all costs. They made the mistake, & I also think they should stick to making & supplying feed for livestock, NOT horses, as to not cross contaminate feed again! If the poor horses are in any pain or discomfort, they should be humanely euthanized, not wait till they’re down, or struggling! Do what’s best for the animals, not the people. Until then, pray for all involved. So sad! 😦

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    • Valerie, I would add that they should pay to replace all those school horses, too, who are (as most of us know) priceless and very hard to find.

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  11. If anyone is interested in what they feed cattle in feedlots, you will want to read “Mad Cowboy” by Howard Lyman. To me, it explains a lot … including what probably was the cause of the Scott City wild horses dying in that feedlot.

    “How long do I have to wait for necropsy results?
    Gross reports are issued by mail, fax, or Web within 48 hours of the necropsy. Final reports – which include histopathology and other ancillary laboratory results – are issued within 2 weeks (10 business days). Specialized testing – including toxicology, nutrition, certain microbiology, and outside referral tests – may take longer”

    Click to access WEBCD.NEC.REF.001.pdf

    Obviously, the BLM knows the results.

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      • Thank you … but this is a typical PR BS, as I imagine you already realize and where are the final results? Not given to the public yet? And why? I think we KNOW why. And as for them dying of old age … you may remember that the Twin Peaks mare that died was in her teens and died “unexpected” after not being able to hold her health since sent to Scott City. How can a healthy mid age mare die after not being able to hold her health and yet be “unexpected”? In my mind she was a victim of BLM’s mis-management as were the other 100+ horses. Just a few more that BLM won’t have to pay for or think about … when she and all of them would have been fine living on their legal land and under the “management” of mother nature.
        PS Not griping at you … just overwhelmed by the animal abuse.

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      • GG, I agree, hence the quotation marks around “updates” which are the furthest thing from it. I am beyond alarmed at the opaqueness around how these horses are disappeared without a trace, or even something passing as a verified cause (horse by horse) of death given to the public. These horses existed, we paid for them to be managed, then removed from their homelands, then sent to their deaths, and still we are fed only the fluffiest of reasons for an astonishing number of deaths in one place in a short time. Had this happened in any domestic herds it would be national news in a heartbeat, but here, the silence is hard to respond to with anything but cynicism.

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    • I only feed alfalfa cubes if I have a horse with a chewing problem who needs wet feed which has happened once to one of my horses. The reason for this is that there are recorded cases of rats or mice being chewed up into the alfalfa and subsequent poisoning of the animal from botulism. My own vet feeds her horses cubes and I find it strange.

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  12. THis is disgusting. Don’t these companies keep track of who they are purchasing feed from? Someone needs to pay plenty for this. How many young “angels” will be crying because their beloved horse is dying and seen after they have died. These horses didn’t deserve to have this happen to them, all they want is the love and attention of their beloved owners. I send my condolences to all those who have lost and will lose their beloved animals.

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  13. I feel for the owners but there is a moral to this story. Feed only what you can identify with your eyes, not mystery pellets. All stock feed is probably what caused this. Processed feed is not an option here because of shit like this happening. Feed oats and corn……it’s safer..

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  14. Seems like every time man tries to manipulate Mother Nature to “improve” something, there is a bad outcome. Mother Nature has refined everything to it’s highest possible standard without interference from man, but people are so greedy and egotistical that they think they can improve on nature. And companies like Monsanto have a death-grip on finding any natural seed to grow your own food. It is truly a sad state of affairs. I feel for these poor horses and their owners. This is tragic. I agree with others posting here that the feed company should be fully responsible for all expenses, including replacing the horses, at this stable. It seems rather odd that only this one stable was affected, though. Livestock got along just fine before all of the additives. But man has been able to create superbugs with all of this antibiotic use.

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    • Yes, my dad was a dairy farmer. There were no antibiotics or penicillin, but I only know of one instance in which he had to put down a cow – she developed mastitis. Our horses were all healthy, too, and this was in really cold country and before vaccinations.

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  15. Confidence…

    “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi

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  16. Perhaps a few (or many) concerned citizens would like to contact BLM and ask for the current “update” regarding the reason for the deaths of our Scott City wild horses and then report back whatever they are told to the rest of us?
    Deborah Collins
    Wild Horse and Burro Marketing Specialist
    (405) 790-1056
    dacollin@blm.gov

    PS Deborah Collins used to be public relations person for BLM but now has the title that used to belong to Sally Spencer who signed many of the sales papers for the 1700 wild horses and burros who “disappeared” after she sold them to Tom Davis a few years ago. Has anyone heard what Sally Spencer’s current title and job duties are? Is she still selling our wild ones?

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